A leader of the impressionist movement — a central exhibitor and organizing force for several of their exhibitions between 1876 and 1882 — Gustave Caillebotte was also an avid gardener. Like his close friend Claude Monet, with whom he shared gardening expertise and exchanged tips, he created lush, vibrantly colored landscapes and translated them into paint on canvas. This marvelous addition to the Gallery's singular impressionist collection celebrates his prized dahlias exploding in the foreground in front of his greenhouse and home. A figure in a long, loose skirt and sun hat, likely the woman with whom Caillebotte lived, carefully inspects something in her hands as her small dog stares at the painter. Afternoon shadows dapple the composition with shade, and wispy clouds mollify the light blue sky. The painter uses perspectival recession to structure his composition and dramatize the space, an effect employed brilliantly in his Parisian scenes of the late 1870s such as Paris Street; Rainy Day (Art Institute of Chicago) and Le Pont de l'Europe (Petit Palais, Geneva).
Caillebotte designed this garden on his property in Petit Gennevilliers across the Seine River from Argenteuil, both suburbs of Paris. He and his brother, Martial, bought the land in 1881 after both of their parents had died, leaving them a fortune. Over the next decade, Caillebotte expanded the estate, bought his brother out, and largely gave up his Parisian life for gardening, painting, and sailing. He was president of the Paris Sailing Club, a champion sailor, and an acclaimed boat designer. He continued to paint scenes of his garden and of the river until his premature death in 1894, one year after he completed this painting.
Dahlias, Garden at Petit Gennevilliers is the gift of the Scharffenberger family of California, who lived with this work in their home near Los Angeles for fifty years before deciding to share it with the nation. The picture hangs in the impressionist galleries near Monet's Artist's Garden at Vétheuil, a work of the same dimensions, also inspired by the love of flowers and sunshine.
lower left: G. Caillebotte / 1893
(Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York); purchased April 1969 by Mr. [d. 2001] and Mrs. George T. Scharffenberger, Rolling Hills, California; Scharffenberger family trusts; gift 2016 to NGA.
- Exposition retrospective d'oeuvres de G. Caillebotte, Galeries Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1894.
- Gustave Caillebotte, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Paris, 1951.
- Gustave Caillebotte, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., London, 1966.
- Gustave Caillebotte, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York, 1968.
- Gustave Caillebotte: A Retrospective Exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Brooklyn Museum, 1976-1977, no. 72, repro. (shown only in Brooklyn).
- Gustave Caillebotte: The Unknown Impressionist, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1996.
- The Impressionists at Argenteuil, National Gallery of Art, Washington; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, 2000, no. 48.
- Impressionist Gardens, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh; Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, 2010-2011.
- Impressionist Works from Private Collections: 100 Masterpieces, Musée Marmottan, Paris, 2014.
- Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter's Eye, National Gallery of Art, Washington; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth; Musée des Impressionnismes, Giverny; Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, 2015-2016, no. 55, repro. (shown only in Washington, Fort Worth, and Giverny).
- Tucker, Paul Hayes. The Impressionists at Argenteuil. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford. Washington and Hartford, 2000: no. 48.